Thursday, December 3, 2015

Topics on the December 8 board meeting agenda

Some of the topics we’ll be discussing at this Tuesday’s school board meeting:

We’ll hear a review of the district’s progress in addressing disproportionate referral of African-American students to special education services. Info here.

We’ll be revisiting the topic of the Smarter Balanced Assessments. After having failed to persuade the legislature to require these very expensive standardized tests, the State Board of Education decided it had the power to impose them without legislative approval, and did so via an administrative rule (over the formal objection of our board). Info here. What’s the next step?

We’ll discuss the possibility of exploring a year-round school alternative. There are no details about this topic included in the agenda.

We’ll hear the district’s annual financial audit report. Info here.

We’ll hear from the committee that examined the issue of discretionary busing. To be entitled to a school bus under state law, a student needs to live a certain distance from his or her school — over two miles for elementary and junior high, and over three miles for high school. We’re free, though, to provide buses for kids who live closer if we choose to. We can’t afford to do much of that “discretionary busing,” however. A committee has been considering what our standards should be for offering discretionary busing.

We’ll hear a proposal for how to handle athletics as part of the transition to opening Liberty High. When Liberty opens in 2017, students who are juniors and seniors at West will have the option of staying on at West. That will pose some challenges for fielding sports teams during Liberty’s initial couple of years. The administration will discuss its recommendation for how to handle those challenges. Info here.

And more! The full agenda is here; please chime in if anything attracts your attention.


Amy Charles said...

Holy crap, the entire point of spending $170K on "I Got a Bridge For You" Exchange is to take the public temperature when it comes to the bond issue?

Tell us, what disasters befall if the voters say no? Tell Lynch that the fact that we have Board members irresponsible enough to throw $170K on stupendously overpriced nonsense like this (WHEN WE HAVE KIDS WHO HAVE TROUBLE GETTING TO SCHOOL AND WE'RE BEING TOLD WE CAN'T AFFORD BUSING THEM) persuades me that we should vote no. Clearly he's not a guy to trust with money. If he wants to vacate the seat, though, I'll reconsider.

Anonymous said...

It's great that there is a committee looking into athletics in the first years of Liberty. Is there a similar committee looking into how to provide arts extra-curriculars as well? Theater, speech, music, etc?

Anonymous said...

Chris - what fund does thought exchange come out of vs bussing? Does it qualify as a software purchase and comes out of PPEL? Seems relevant to Amy's concerns if they are different pots of money since PPEL can't be used for bussing.

Chris said...

Anonymous #1 – Yes, planning for extracurricular activities is important, too, and I assume the committee has that issue on its agenda. The athletics transition is just one of the issues that the transition committee is working on; according to the agenda item, “We started with athletics because the Iowa High School Athletic Association has a December deadline to play district football in 2017.” My guess is that the athletics issues are also just more complicated — for example, I suspect that achieving a critical mass of participants is more of a challenge for sports teams than for math or debate teams (which could be smaller), especially given that it may be difficult (and unsafe) to pit a varsity football team made up largely of freshmen and sophomores against teams made up mostly of seniors, etc.

Anonymous #2 and Amy – The money for ThoughtExchange comes out of the Physical Plant and Equipment Levy (PPEL) fund, and so is not in “competition” with money for discretionary busing, which comes out of the general fund. I’d object to any suggestion that we can feel free to be less frugal with PPEL funds than with the general fund, however. Moreover, PPEL does fund some projects in the facilities master plan, so spending PPEL dollars on ThoughtExchange can increase how much we need to ask for in bond funding to follow through on the facilities plan.

Chris said...

I should point out, though, that the board voted to enter a three-year contract with ThoughtExchange, not the five-year one initially proposed, so the total cost ended up being $106,462. I was one of three board members who voted against it.

Amy Charles said...

As long as we're talking about software (and maybe, by extension, hardware), EFF's filed suit against Google for mining student data via Chromebooks, which they'd explicitly promised not to do.

This is why, incidentally, the kids need ways of turning in work that are not essentially Google come-ons in which they get what they're really after, which is student info. I know there are cheap/easy benefits for the schools, but it's rather expensive for the kids.


And yes, throwing the money is dumb regardless of which pile it's coming from. Not to mention the irony of spending voted PPEL money on some boondoggle meant to sell the next bond issue. No, do not tax me in order to build a case for more taxes. Spend the money on the frigging schools, and do it sensibly.

Amy Charles said...

A hundred freaking thousand dollars for three years of online chat.

Notice that we are chatting online right this very moment for $0. Want surveys? Surveymonkey, $0.

I would like for techboy to explain what exactly we need, conversationally, that free apps do not provide but BridgeForSale Exchange does. Starting with the bit about "what we need that we can't get for free", not "what BridgeForSale has that we might think is cool."

I love the bit, too, about how this thing "rose to the top" in techboy's assessment. Lots of things rise to the top.

Sorry, my sense of wtf is maxed for tonight by ostensibly sensible Iowans straightfacedly discussing throwing a hundred freaking thousand dollars at three years' license for a chat board.

Karen W said...

With respect to Liberty HS, do you know which programs are considered co-curricular activities and which ones part of the regular academic program? And if Liberty doesn't offer a program that the other schools offer, will students be allowed to participate in the program at West or City HS?

I lived in a community that tried out a year-round elementary school program twenty years ago. It didn't last long, and they eventually closed the school. I think it sounds good in theory, but in practice parents didn't like--or couldn't realistically manage--having elementary aged children with different days off than their middle school and/or high school aged kids. It looks like there may not be clear academic benefits for students (though possibly non-academic benefits?) and that some of the districts committed to year-round schools are committed out of necessity; they need multi-track year-round schools to manage building capacity issues.